The Players Championship leaderboard: Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy in the red early at TPC Sawgrass

Scott Halleran

There's an early European flavor at the top of the the Players leaderboard, and last year's goat, Sergio Garcia, is back rolling at Sawgrass again.

The last time we saw Sergio Garcia at TPC Sawgrass, the precocious Spaniard was imploding by putting three balls in the water on the final two holes of a Sunday back-and-forth with Tiger Woods. At the time, Garcia was in perfect position to chasedown Tiger for his second Players title, an event where he's obviously comfortable.

Sergiowater_medium

That ignominious end to last year's "fifth major" has had little effect on his next round, as Garcia is back going low again on Pete Dye's Stadium Course. He's 4-under through his first nine holes, just off the early pace set by Scott Brown. Garcia's been playing good golf for more than a year now, and he was even a trendy favorite at the Masters. A missed cut at Augusta didn't change much for his prospects at Sawgrass, and his accuracy tee-to-green is obviously a huge asset on a course that demands it more than most layouts on the modern PGA Tour.

Sergio rolled in three birdies in his first four holes to promptly race out to the lead, and added another red number at the gettable par-5 16th. Playing in the morning's marquee group with Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, Sergio's rhythm has been perfect so far except for one ugly tee ball at the 12th. But that one poor swing was quickly overcome with a stunning recovery shot from deep in the pine straw (via PGATour.com)

He would go on to pour in the putt for an amazing birdie, and the bad taste from last year's ending was definitely gone. If Sergio's putter is rolling, he should run away with it on Sunday. Going out in 32 is a perfect number, and he'll have his chances to add to it and get in the mid-60s on the front nine.

Garcia is not the only big name making an early move towards a round in the 60s. Fellow Euros Lee Westwood and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are also at 4-under, while Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are a shot off that pace. This could be another week that jams up those loaded Euro Ryder Cup standings. Here's a current snapshot of the top of the leaderboard at the Players:

Place Player Score Thru
1 Scott Brown -5 9
T2 Lee Westwood -4 15
T2 Brian Stuard -4 15
T2 Gonzalo Fdez-Castano -4 14 *
T2 Gary Woodland -4 11
T2 Chris Kirk -4 9
T2 Sergio Garcia -4 9 *
T8 Russell Henley -3 11
T8 Zach Johnson -3 9 *
T8 Justin Rose -3 9 *
T9 Rory McIlroy -3 9 *
T12 Brendon de Jonge -2 15
T12 James Hahn -2 16 *
T12 J.B. Holmes -2 13 *
T12 Rory Sabbatini -2 13 *
T12 Jason Dufner -2 10 *
T12 Ryan Moore -2 11
T12 Jordan Spieth -2 10 *
T12 Kevin Na -2 10
T12 Ernie Els -2 9
T12 Dustin Johnson -2 9 *
T12 Brendan Steele -2 7 *

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